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Streetcars & Waterfronts: The F Market & Wharves Line

With a little creativity, San Francisco's F Market & Wharves historic streetcar line is the most successful vintage rail line ever opened, attracting over 20,000 riders a day. The restoration of the F-Line led to a billion dollars of redevelopment along the wharves and waterfront and has been so successful in re-energizing the economy that the city is reviewing plans to double the length of the route in order to fully redevelop the historically commercial waterfront. With developments like the Cannery and Ghirardelli square credited to historic transit lines, no one was prepared for the explosion of business and revenue that resulted from adding the vintage and often whimsical F-Line. In its wake however, the value of historic streetcars is finally beginning to be realized by planners across the planet. Can Jacksonville learn from San Francisco's experience?

Published August 20, 2010 in Transit      17 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


About the F Market & Wharves

The F Market & Wharves line is one of several light rail lines in San Francisco, California. Unlike the other lines, the F line is operated as a heritage streetcar service, using exclusively historic equipment both from San Francisco's retired fleet as well as from cities around the world. While the F line is operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni), its operation is supported by Market Street Railway, a nonprofit organization of streetcar enthusiasts which raises funds and helps to restore vintage streetcars.

Despite its heritage status, the F Market & Wharves line is an integral part of Muni's intermodal urban transport network, operating at frequent intervals for 20 hours a day, seven days a week. It carries local commuters and tourists alike, linking residential, business and leisure oriented areas of the city. Unlike the San Francisco cable car system, standard Muni fares are levied.


Previous F-Line

In 1915, the San Francisco Municipal Railway started the F-Stockton route, which ran from Laguna (Later Scott) and Chestnut Streets in the Marina down Stockton Street to 4th and Market Streets near Union Square, later extended to the Southern Pacific Depot (currently the Caltrain Depot) in 1947. The streetcar line was discontinued in 1951 and was replaced by the 30-Stockton route, which still runs today.

The F-line designation was therefore available for use by the current line, although that service is over a completely different route to the F-line of 1915 to 1951.

Previous lines on Market Street

Market Street is a major transit artery for the city of San Francisco, and has carried in turn horse-drawn streetcars, cable cars and electric streetcars. In the 1970s construction began on the Market Street Subway, which would carry BART's trains on its lower level. The streetcar lines that previously ran on the surface of Market Street were diverted into the upper level of this tunnel. This diversion, together with the provision of new light rail cars, resulted in today's Muni Metro system.

The diversion of the Market Street streetcar lines into tunnel, and the replacement of the existing streetcars with new light rail cars, was completed by November 1982. However the street trackage on Market Street was retained, and many of the old streetcars were still in store.

Historic Trolley Festivals

In 1982, San Francisco's cable car lines had to be shut down for two years to allow for a major rebuild. To provide an alternative tourist attraction during this period, the San Francisco Historic Trolley Festivals began in 1983. These summertime operations of vintage streetcars on Market Street were a joint project of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and Muni.

The trolley festival route went from the Transbay Terminal at First and Mission Streets to Market, then up the retained Market Street tracks to Duboce Avenue. From there, it followed a 'temporary' streetcar detour built in the 1970s to bypass subway construction under Market: Duboce, Church Street, and 17th Street to Castro.

F-Market Line

The Trolley Festival proved so successful that it was repeated every year until 1987. In that year, preparation began for the introduction of a permanent F line. After that year’s festival finished, Muni replaced the old Market Street tracks with new ones, restoring tracks to upper Market Street and recreating a line to Castro. Different types of vintage streetcars were evaluated to provide the backbone of the F-line fleet, resulting in the decision to use the PCC car, with its San Francisco transit heritage. Fourteen such cars were acquired second-hand from Philadelphia, to add to three of Muni’s own retired double-ended PCCs.

On September 1, 1995, the F line opened with a parade of PCC cars, painted to represent some of the two dozen North American cities that this type of streetcar once served. Ridership exceeded expectation, and the need for extra cars resulted in the acquisition of ten Peter Witt style cars just being retired in the city of Milan, Italy. These cars were built in the 1920s to a design once common in North American cities, and their sister cars are still widely used in Milan.

Extension on the Embarcadero

The Embarcadero is the eastern waterfront roadway of San Francisco, along San Francisco Bay. At one time busy with port and ferry related traffic, it fell into decline as freight transferred to the container terminals of Oakland and the Bay Bridge replaced the ferries. In the 1960s the elevated Embarcadero Freeway was built above, dividing the city from the bay, but this was condemned and demolished after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

With the increasing development of the waterfront for leisure and tourist activities, and the existence of Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 at its northern end, it was decided to rebuild the Embarcadero as a tree-lined boulevard complete with a streetcar reservation. The section of this north of Market Street was to be served by an extension of the F line. Tracks were extended on the northern end of Market to connect with the Embarcadero tracks. In March 2000, service on the F line began along the new extension to Fisherman's Wharf.

What's Next?

Today, Muni is making preparations to make the long-proposed E-Embarcadero line a reality, from Caltrain to the Wharf, sharing track with the F-line to the north and the Muni Metro south of Folsom Street. There is strong community support, led in part by Market Street Railway, to extend this line west from the Wharf to Fort Mason, a big center for nonprofit organizations and events. From there, there is talk of further extending the line to serve the Presidio parkland and community. Market Street Railway has helped to acquire dozens of restorable streetcars for these future extensions.

It’s all due to the huge success of the F-line and the Trolley Festivals that sparked the historic streetcar movement in San Francisco. It’s a history that does the City proud.

Fisherman’s Wharf is easily the Bay Area's biggest tourist destination and serves as a real engine to the city's economy no matter what the economy in general is doing. Tourists aside however, the Wharf developed as an organic use of the waterfront, a vibrant commercial community, much like Jacksonville's historic downtown.  Until the late 1960s, when people referred to ‘the Wharf’ it was exactly that: a boat harbor next to Pier 45 where the city's fishing fleet docked.  In San Francisco's case, the fishing industry was mostly Italian immigrant families who left a very serious Italian legacy in the north.   But "The Wharf" was the docks and the string of mostly Italian restaurants surrounding the harbor.

However, in 1957, when Muni (One of the city's transit systems) reconfigured its cable car service, it created a new ‘Powell-Hyde’ line that directly linked the city’s retail and hotel district to Aquatic Park. Tourists climbed on board the Hyde cars for fun, but found themselves in a pretty industrial area and a dirt parking lot.  It didn't take long for developers to notice this.

Developers like William Matson Roth and Leonard Martin.  They went in, bought out the doughty old industrial complexes and transformed them into places like Ghirardelli Square and The Cannery. ‘Fisherman’s Wharf’ expanded:  Suddenly it wasn't just the docks and the restaurants.  By the end of the 70s, it was everything from Ghirardelli in the west to Pier 39 in the east.

The rest of the area depended on cars, and when the streetcars declined, so did new development.

That is until the F-line extended to the Wharf in 2000.  Visitor travel patterns changed radically

The F-line was such a huge hit that it actually carries more traffic than the two old cable car lines combined (The Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde Lines). While some of the traffic definitely comes from people who would otherwise be riding the cable cars (which cost $5 and generally have much longer turntable lines), most F-liners have been shown to be people that would have been using autos or cabs. The most noticeable effect is that the F Line--by making it easier to access the wharves--has cut down on the growth of auto traffic and at the same time made coming to the area even easier and less expensive.  The uptick in business to establishments served by the F line has not gone unnoticed by developers and merchants in the areas which are not connected by the vintage trolley cars..

The effect of the F line on business has actually been startling, and chamber of commerce types began seeing an undeniable trend in visitor comments, and actual retail sales.  Despite all the other ways of reaching the Wharf (bus, car, cablecar, cab, walking and biking) the sites and business that were visible from the F Line route witnessed an explosion in sales and growth.  But in the rest of the area, especially the attractions in the western part of the Wharf have seen static and even declining visitation since the F-line opened.

Common business sense has led to a demand that the vintage trolley lines be extended.

Check out the Plans for an extension of the service:

graphic courtesy

On busy Market Street in downtown San Francisco, people avoid nearly empty buses but pack restored streetcars.  Across the nation - in cities such as Memphis, Little Rock and New Orleans - plans are under way to restore or extend downtown streetcar lines, which are popular with tourist and residents.

As many as a half-dozen modern or vintage trolley lines might soon join the nearly 30 such systems operating in U.S. cities.  

"Streetcars are making a comeback because cities across America are recognizing that they can restore economic development downtown - giving citizens the choice to move between home, shopping and entertainment without ever looking for a parking space," said Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. "These streetcar projects will not only create construction jobs now, they will aid our recovery by creating communities with the potential to be more prosperous and less congested."

Even the FTA believes in the economic development power of the streetcar.  San Francisco's successful F-Line trolley is an example of what can happen with mass transit when creativity enters the picture.  

San Francisco's streetcar line is an integral part of the Bay Area's transit system.  Nathaniel Ford, executive director of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said daily ridership peaks at 24,000 during the summer tourist season but added that the line also gets heavy use by daily commuters connecting to light rail and the city's subway system.

He said streetcars do more for economic development than buses. "Rail projects are very expensive, but tend to be permanent.  And you get the economic development around stops that you normally don't see with bus operations."

Despite the obvious differences, there are several elements that Jacksonville has in common with the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco.  Historically, the economic activity was based on maritime industries, around which a vibrant area developed.  They also both experienced exponential growth once their retail/hotel centers were connected with their maritime districts, and the two areas were served by fixed mass transit and thrived until the 60s and 70s, then began declining.

Building Jacksonville into a sustainable community and creating jobs with reliable mass transit is a realistic goal and opportunity for our city.  All we need to do is embrace creativity.

Article by Ennis Davis and Stephen Dare

Photos by Daniel Herbin


CS Foltz

August 20, 2010, 08:36:04 AM
Well I hate to be a naysayer but we have a proven track record of organizations pushing their own agenda's which don't include the tax paying public! We just get to pay for it..............such as the new study work being done in regards to "Rail"! I find it hard to not only believe, but understand, just why the normal responce is " Well lets form a committee (usually with people connected in the power groups) to evaluate and study the situation"! Most of these studies are just rehashed from previous studies but with a new wrinkle, supposedly!


August 20, 2010, 08:46:44 AM
Well I hate to be a naysayer but we have a proven track record of organizations pushing their own agenda's which don't include the tax paying public! We just get to pay for it..............such as the new study work being done in regards to "Rail"! I find it hard to not only believe, but understand, just why the normal responce is " Well lets form a committee (usually with people connected in the power groups) to evaluate and study the situation"! Most of these studies are just rehashed from previous studies but with a new wrinkle, supposedly!

I don't have so much of a problem with the participation of the people making money being involved in the process, but we have allowed the process to go awry.

Obviously when you are building rail, you have to connect people with destinations that they actually want to go to, which will almost always involve commercial developments and businesses.  Otherwise, you have the jacksonville situation.

Our problem is that when we are planning infrastructure, instead of involving the guys who actually have businesses and developments that will actually be useful to connect, the guys making the decisions are the contractors who have a huge interest in making it sprawl as much as possible, and they usually have an cheap ass parcel of land out in the boonies that they would like to develop by giving it sudden 'value' as a result of being connected at the taxpayers dime.

That was the other thing, that I found shocking about San Francisco.  And now that I look back, I realize that my own response was shocking.

When it comes time to build improvements to the public transit, the corporate giants and big companies are expected to chip in.

At the time I remember marvelling how 'progressive' that seemed.  Obviously I could see how the companies benefited by having easy transit for their employees, but I was so used to the corruption here, that I literally did not know that the business community ever partnered with the city to pay for services that benefitted it.


August 20, 2010, 02:33:53 PM
While the F line is operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni), its operation is supported by Market Street Railway, a nonprofit organization of streetcar enthusiasts which raises funds and helps to restore vintage streetcars.

Like New York and Pier 39 I posted previously, another project jointly performed by government and community and/or for-profit partners.  Not only does this relieve the City's budget, but it probably results in more creative, visionary, responsive, and entrepreneurial approaches than a purely government bureaucracy led project.  It seems to me that Jax is sorely deficient in these types of arrangements and the poor results of our civic projects may speak well to that.

I think MJ should do an article investigating this model as it has the potential to impact ALL needs in our community, from transit to education to historic preservation to parks, etc., in a new, effective, efficient, and energetic way.  It is becoming apparent to me that our problem locally isn't so much a lack of ideas, but an effective and reliable mechanism to make such ideas a successful and functional reality.


August 20, 2010, 03:07:07 PM
I recently took that very same street car from the castro to the Warf for the farmer's market. I would do that every time I'm in San Fran. Wonderful time.


August 20, 2010, 03:26:28 PM
I recently took that very same street car from the castro to the Warf for the farmer's market. I would do that every time I'm in San Fran. Wonderful time.

LOL. Ock would love that I am reminding you our PCT Beaver Street Trolley goes to the Jacksonville Farmers Market from downtown.  And, its FREE!


August 20, 2010, 06:18:20 PM
San Fran is a good story on the use of historical trolleys. They work there because they have the essentials; tourism, high urban living, cooperative tax base to subsidize it.

It was also strategic, as the people who punt on the overcrowded cable car to Fisherman's Wharf, can now see just as much in something no less historic.


August 20, 2010, 10:20:22 PM
I recently took that very same street car from the castro to the Warf for the farmer's market. I would do that every time I'm in San Fran. Wonderful time.

LOL. Ock would love that I am reminding you our PCT Beaver Street Trolley goes to the Jacksonville Farmers Market from downtown.  And, its FREE!

Actually "OCK" is downright sick over the whole article!

In 1980, I went before Councilmen Jim Wells, Eric Smith, and Andy Johnson, with an idea...  Why not create a
"working museum" as a tourist attraction in downtown Jacksonville. At that time, not a single new streetcar line had been built since the 1930's-40's, and NOTHING like streetcar had operated in Jacksonville since 1936 or in Florida since 1946 (Tampa). The idea was very simple and would probably have cost in the $250,000 dollar range. Roughly one mile, down Water Street - Independence - Bay (to stadium) of single track with a passing siding in the middle. A simple shallow cut into the pavement, with standard railroad track laid down just as the old track (or ties) seen on the recent Main Street reconstruction in Springfield. The cut away section would then be filled back in with paving brick (for easy removal for maintenance).

Somewhere on the projected railway we wanted a museum that could really show off not only the cars, but every detail of a bygone era, LIVING HISTORY. Walking tours of the shop, car barn, along with a gift shop and snack bar would round out a complex that would entertain for the better part of a day. The old Car Barn of the Jacksonville Traction Company still stood (Where the Skyway facility is today). We located 5-6 streetcars, 4 of which we actually went out and examined (the other two are still rumored to exist in San Marco and Lackawanna).

We became an official project of the Jacksonville DDA under Jim Catlett, who was one of our cheerleaders. A study was done by a local marketing company that found some 500k visitors a year would turn off the FREEway just to see our streetcars (that's a solid 6 Superbowls y'all).

The trouble was at the top, mayor Jake Godbold, and JTA's senior planner Steve Arrington (who is today pushing BRT and the JRTC). were determined that a "FREE DOWNTOWN PEOPLE MOVER" would out novel our best streetcar effort. "TOMORROW LAND" we were told, and the hard sell was on.  With lightning speed 4 of the historic streetcars (some amazingly with still workable folding doors) were suddenly collected and scrapped by the city as "eyesores". The carbarn complex was suddenly in the way of the new Acosta Bridge and we were all shown a print of a new multi-lane highway right through the Jacksonville Terminal Yard space from the Acosta to the Beaver Street overpass. All historical files were secreted out to the north side landfill in a JTA dump truck.

Finally JCCI completed a study with such skewed results as "Streetcars are smaller and slower then buses" and "Streetcars MUST operate in streets in competition with the automobile."  Screw the museum aspect, the King had decided that the WORLDS FIRST HERITAGE STREETCAR LINE would steal federal funds (and passengers) from the Skyway.

The saga ended when it was STRONGLY suggested that I take the family and leave Jacksonville. The Skyway was built and every speck of our streetcar history was wiped out. What would have been the first would today be the 30Th (and counting) system nationwide, all opportunity for leadership blown to hell.

So JTA? Is it revenge I seek? NO! It's a RECKONING!  *$^!@&$@#!



August 21, 2010, 09:57:55 AM
That's an important history lesson for Jacksonville.  Very sad that it ended in the way you describe.

I've often wondered about the appeal of all forms of rail travel (streetcar, light rail, rail, high speed rail) and I suspect the appeal has to do with the "certainty" of rail; i.e., rail is slow to develop but location of stations and lines are relatively permanent, and rail service is much more reliable (certain) than buses are.

Great article by MJ; hope it spurs the imagination of JTA (is that possible?) and city leaders.


August 22, 2010, 07:33:05 AM
One thing that has really helped this line is that SF has been able to acquire many of these streetcars from the junk heap of other cities. Most of them are historic cars from other cities that have thrown them away or they are found rotting in yards. As a resident my only complaint is that it can be hard to find a seat or space since the cars are so crowded with tourists.  - jj


August 22, 2010, 11:20:48 AM
Tayana, it's not just jacksonville that screw things up. Here's the latest about my Metro Rail.

I heard somewhere last week that it's just shy $47M to meet operating expenses or something like that.


 The Metropolitan Transit Authority has been in the news recently mostly because of a good, old-fashioned document-shredding scandal and yet another spectacular crash.

But the more important issue facing Houstonians is that Metro is preparing to force large swaths of the community – including the key Uptown area near the Galleria -- to incur the enormous cost of enduring construction of its inefficient and impractical rail lines.

Bill King has spent a considerable amount of his time over the past several years studying Metro and Houston’s transit problems. In this devastating post, King finds that Metro is close to barreling completely out of any semblance of fiscal control:

There could hardly be a more fitting image for the close of the current Metro administration than the recent photographs for a wrecked Metro buses in front of Metro's headquarters after having been broad-sided by Metro's Main Street light rail. The last six years are likely to be remembered as the most ruinous time for public transportation in Houston's history as Metro has pursued a single-minded obsession to build its version of an at-grade rail system regardless of the cost, both in financial terms and in the degradation of the bus system on which over 100,000 Houstonians rely daily. Fortunately, Mayor Parker has ordered top-to-bottom review of the agency. Here is what that review is likely to find.

Decline in Ridership. Since 2004, Houston population has grown by over 10% from just over 2 million to 2.25 million. At the same time gas prices rose 47% from $1.81 per gallon to $2.67 per gallon. These two factors should have virtually guaranteed an increase in transit. However, exactly the opposite has occurred as bus boardings dropped almost 24% from 88 million in 2004 to 67 million in 2009. Instead of increasing bus service by 50% as it promised the voters in the 2003 referendum, Metro has slashed bus routes and increased fares by over 50%. Today Metro actually operates 225 fewer buses than it did in 2003. An outside performance audit in 2008 found that on-time performance fell by 29% from 2004 to 2008.

Financial Disaster. Since 2003, Metro's sales tax revenues have increased by 43%, rising from $357 million to $512 million. At the same time, its fare revenue increased by 41% from $42 million to $60 million by charging an ever dwindling ridership more. Yet, Metro is in the worst financial shape in recent history. At year end 2003 Metro's current assets exceeded its current liabilities by $125 million. The budget just adopted by the Metro board projects that it will have current accounts deficit of $165 million by the end of this fiscal year, a stunning loss of nearly $300 million in just five years. Over the same period, Metro's debt has swelled by nearly 50% from $546 million to $816 million.


In the meantime, the cost of the [Metro’s Light Rail Transit lines] has risen from the $1.2 billion originally estimated to something well in excess of $3 billion. Metro is seeking to borrow $2.6 billion to build the LRT, over four times what it promised the voters would be the limit in the 2003 referendum. Originally, Metro assured voters that it could build the LRT without tapping the mobility payments that are so critical to the Houston and the other member cities. Metro's projections now show that it can only afford the LRT if those payments are terminated in 2014. [.  .  .]

In 2003, after a spirited public debate, this community approved, by a narrow margin, a consensus plan to enhance public transportation with a multi-modal approach. Part of that bargain was a limited experiment with a light rail system. The voters specifically limited the resources that Metro could devote to the light rail for fear that the cost might undermine the solid, dependable bus service that existed at that time. Metro's leadership has shredded that contract with the voters in favor of its own grandiose vision of transit that has little to do actually solving Houston's mobility problems. In the meantime, traffic congestion continues to get worse and working families that rely on public transportation to get their jobs everyday find riding Metro a more difficult and more expensive proposition.

Read King’s entire post. Metro’s defenders typically rely on the 2003 referendum as the primary basis for their continued support of such wasteful spending. But the problem with such referendums is that they ask voters to approve large public ventures such as Metro in a vacuum while ignoring Peter Gordon's three elegantly simple questions regarding economic choices:

1) At what cost?

2) Compared to what? and

3) How do you know?

For example, assume for a moment that voters were informed of the fact that the average urban freeway lane costs about $10 million per mile and that the average light rail line costs over $50 million per mile while carrying less than one-fifth as many people as the freeway lane. And these are only average figures.

Moreover, let's assume that voters were informed that the expenditure of a billion or so of public money on expanding a lightly-used light rail system has real consequences, such as leaving inadequate funds to make improvements to Houston's infrastructure that would dramatically decrease the risk of death and property damage from flooding. Or whether the billion or so being flushed down the light rail drain would be better used to fix various area traffic "hotspots" where accidents or bottlenecks occur with high frequency.

No one knows for sure, but my bet is that voting results would be dramatically different if the foregoing costs and alternatives were included as a part of the referendum.

Unfortunately, the relatively small groups that benefit from these urban boondoggles have a vested interest in keeping that threshold issue from ever being re-examined. The economic benefit of light rail is highly concentrated in only a few interest groups, such as political representatives of minority communities who tout the political accomplishment of shiny toy rail lines while ignoring their constituents need for more effective mass transit; environmental groups striving for political influence; construction-related firms that feed at the trough of Metro's poor investment decisions; and private real estate developers who enrich themselves through the increase in their property values along the rail line. As Professor Gordon wryly-noted in another post: "It adds up to a winning coalition."

Unfortunately, once such coalitions are successful in establishing a governmental policy subsidizing such boondoggles, it is much more difficult to end the public subsidy of the boondoggle than to start it in the first place.

None of these above-stated reasons for mass transit appeal to the vast majority of the electorate, so this amalgamation of interest groups continues to disguise their true interests behind amorphous claims that the uneconomic rail lines reduce traffic congestion (they do not), curb air pollution (they do not), or improve the quality of life (at least debatable).

How do these interest groups get away with this? The costs of such systems are widely dispersed among the local population of an area such as Houston, so the many who stand to lose will lose only a little while the few who stand to gain will gain a lot. As a result, these small interest groups recognize that it is usually not worth the relatively small cost per taxpayer for most citizens to spend any substantial amount of time or money lobbying or simply taking the time to vote against an uneconomic rail system.

Metro's rail system is a bad virus that has infected Houston. The cost of treating this civic virus is growing larger each month. Without immediate re-examination of Metro's light rail plan, the increasing costs of this plan risk turning this currently manageable problem into a major civic fiscal crisis that could negatively affect the Houston area's growth and prosperity.

As Bill King exhibits, real leadership involves recognizing that risk and addressing it, not indulging it.

Posted by Tom at March 17, 2010 12:01 AM

CS Foltz

August 22, 2010, 11:24:08 AM
I would not mind having to contend with tourists for a seat on a trolly! But we have to get a trolly system up and running first............IMHO!


August 22, 2010, 03:21:10 PM
And now, just in time for the JTA DOG AND PONY BRT SHOW, some skewed "investigative journalism" from the "OIL CAPITAL OF AMERICA" Houston. Watch for clippings and snippets from articles such as this in JTA's disinformation campaign. I'm NOT saying the Houston Transit folks are perfect, God knows our own JTA has more holes in it then a screen door. The math in this article and the assumptions about the benefits of rubber tired transit are severely suspect. Houston, Kansas City and Jacksonville are all three battlefields where the Highway Lobby has been hard at work trying to stem a light rail juggernaut. So anything and everything from any part of these governments is suspect. In this case it appears the transit agency is trying to lead with voter approval, but the city, county, media and/or corporate community are pulling out all the stops to squash them. Are they all being honest? Who knows, but the question of our cities future is far deeper then someones honesty... try infrastructure.

But the more important issue facing Houstonians is that Metro is preparing to force large swaths of the community – including the key Uptown area near the Galleria -- to incur the enormous cost of enduring construction of its inefficient and impractical rail lines.

Inefficient and impractical rail lines? WTF? Only in Houston? errr uh and maybe JACKSONVILLE! I'd love to ask this highway hugger what he considers efficient and practical urban mass transit, wouldn't you?

For example, assume for a moment that voters were informed of the fact that the average urban freeway lane costs about $10 million per mile and that the average light rail line costs over $50 million per mile while carrying less than one-fifth as many people as the freeway lane. And these are only average figures.

Do the math for God's sake!

That FREEway he is speaking of if examined closely is ONE LANE-ONE MILE, Easily $40,000,000 in order to build just a minimum 4 lane freeway - ONE MILE, plus right of way costs. WHY? Because that is how they are priced... here he is speaking of CONSTRUCTION COSTS only.

Worse still is the presumption that rail will carry less then a fifth as many people as his "FREEway", Oop's now he has a problem, his FREEway is ONE LANE-ONE MILE and in order to have the same capacity as a railroad he is going to need a fraction over TWO LANES. So a two track LIGHT RAIL LINE has a higher passenger per hour capacity then his 4 lanes of freeway.


$50,000,000 per mile for LIGHT RAIL includes double track, right-of-way, cantenary, stations and vehicles... In short a ready to run railroad. WHY? Because that is how they are priced.

For more on the "benefits" of urban FREEways see:

Perhaps you should read part of the script from Roger Rabbit as he and detective Valiant are captured by Judge Doom who then reveals his evil plot to remake HOUSTON, Jacksonville, er LOS ANGELES!


     continues expansively.

               Right here where we're standing, will
               be the cornerstone of my idea... the
               cloverleaf -- an elegant cement
               structure that intertwines freeways.

               What the hell's a freeway?

               A freeway, Mr. Valiant, is eight lanes
               of asphalt running uninterrupted from
               L.A. to Pasadena.  Pasadena to
               Hollywood.  Hollywood to Santa Monica.
               Someday everyone will be in cars
               driving happily, non-stop from one end
               of the L.A. Basin to another.

               That's what this is all about?  Tell
               me, who's gonna use your lousy freeway?
               We got the Red Cars, the best public
               transportation in the country.

               Not for long.  We're retiring the Red
               Cars.  People will drive, Mr. Valiant,
               because they'll have to.  And when they
               drive, they'll have to buy our cars,
               our tires, our gasoline.

                               JESSICA RABBIT
               Why'd you bother to call it a freeway?

     Doom steps up into their faces.  Behind him, several Weasles
     are fashioning a noose.

               Has a nice ring.  Too bad you two won't
               be around to enjoy it.



August 22, 2010, 05:13:49 PM
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for rail. I can't wait till the metro line runs to my favorite pub.  Right now, I either walk about 10 blocks, take a taxi for about $5.00 or the bus for $1.25.


August 22, 2010, 07:59:26 PM
here's the problem with the Houston talks about a decline in ridership...but that's only for the bus, which makes sense as some folks would have shifted to rail.

I wonder what the total system (bus and rail) ridership looks like now as compared with 2003


August 22, 2010, 08:23:46 PM
To Ocklawaha,

I am sorry to hear what happened to your proposal for historical light rail in Jax. It was a great idea at the time and I think it would have laid a great foundation for today.

However, when I finished reading it, either you left out some details due to space or it just didn't happen perhaps.

Any public initiative like the one you were describing requires one to align themselves with ones who have the most to gain and the most political capital. The people you embraced had much to gain, but appears to have very little political capital or will to see it through the blockade called JTA.

If you had been able to acquire more allies ahead of time, even if their vested interests were smaller or minimal presents a larger political wall for the blockade to overcome. It definitely serves proof that you presented a threat to the interests within JTA (otherwise, why all the personal threats?). But those can be easily ablated by aligning the effort among a larger set of political interests before JTA can raise their shackles.

The recent arrogant response to the tunnels at Jax Terminal serves proof that there is a "we know it, you don't" attitude that permeates throughout JTA planning and management. A simple technical reason to explain why the tunnels couldn't be used in planning would have sufficed, but the "this won't be discussed" response is completely out of line. Arrogant political entities can easily be overcome by setting up a much larger set of political entities in response.  Of course the nuclear response to arrogant entities is taking it to the taxpayers themselves.

Clearly when anyone deals with a semi-autonomous political entity like the JTA, you must have your allies and political ducks lined up in advance. It seems to be a lesson you learned the hard way in your historical rail project.

CS Foltz

August 22, 2010, 09:01:24 PM
spuwho...........your right! Just because a cause is just and right doesn't mean the powers that be will buy the concept! There is power in numbers and that possibility is being addressed!


August 22, 2010, 09:38:08 PM

Clearly when anyone deals with a semi-autonomous political entity like the JTA, you must have your allies and political ducks lined up in advance. It seems to be a lesson you learned the hard way in your historical rail project.


While we had several other power hitters, including the Jacksonville Journal (at that time a daily paper) editor George Harmon, we did not have the ability to network in the numbers that the City and JTA could pull out of their political black books. Several have suggested that I got a little too close to Ed Ball's parking empire, or previous dealings, others think maybe the Stockton or other interests, whoever or whatever it was, we must have struck a nerve. You are right about attitudes, we were publicly laughed at. The very thought that a citizen could have an idea that might make more sense then getting $200,000,000 in FREE transit money for an unproven "Buck Rogers Space ride" was a real knee slapper.

Worse still the ONLY source for costs and popularity of a heritage streetcar was from various museums around the country. Museums were "silly amateurs" foaming over riding trains and trams, hardly serious, educated transit people.

Today, many miles and a half a world later and I no longer need to work. Not for JTA or anybody else, EVER! I no longer need their stamp of approval and will not be sent away again. The concept is little changed from the original, though today we have stacks of facts and figures to work with and would propose a larger starter system. While we might have lost some of our tourist appeal, we sure haven't lost any potential development appeal. Facts are facts and RAIL ATTRACTS BIG $$, the only way around this for JTA is to lie, and in the face of an internet savvy public that just won't hold.

JTA? STREETCARS ARE COMING, That clanging sound you hear down on Myrtle isn't coming from your Jake-brake boys and girls.

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